Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Princess Labelmaker to the Rescue

The Origami Yoda series are definitely my favorite books for sixth graders, and my students agree. The fifth book, Princess Labelmaker to the Rescue, was published in March and my students have been hounding me for a copy. When I flew back to the US to plan my wedding, I was finally able to pick it up.

As always, Tom Angleberger understands middle school minds like no one else. He incorporates details into his books that are so authentic. For example, two characters become obsessed with a gross computer mouse at the local library that was never cleaned. He writes, “So as the weeks went by and the globules just stayed there, we named the mouse Lucky Yucky. And we started a fan club for it – although I have to admit there were only two of us in the club—and we made t-shirts.” Just a tiny vignette that is exactly what twelve year olds would do when they encounter something strange. Multiple Skype chats with the author have shown his similarities to the Dwight character, who he infuses with such endearing strangeness, like when he uses his hoodie strings to tie himself to the library magazine rack. These little details are what make the books so appealing to kids; they see themselves and their peers on every page.

In addition to his insight into adolescents, Angleberger understands what is happening in schools and his series is a protest against the testing culture that has taken over the education system in the United States. Princess Labelmaker features an unlikely heroine, Principal Rabbski, who was the enemy in the first four books of the series. I think it’s important for kids to realize that teachers and administrators don’t like test prep any more than they do, and to learn that their voices have power when they band together.

Is it strange to be sad that there are only two more books in the series? I’ve grown attached to Dwight, Tommy, Murky, and the rest of the kids. I’m already anxiously awaiting the next book and which Star Wars character will get its chance for the cover. Buy this entire series for all the 8 – 12 year olds in your life.

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